Anti-religious bias in school textbooks could fuel next genocide

Religious bias and stereotypes in school children’s textbooks around the world could fuel the next genocide, a new report is warning today.

Mohabat News _  Young people from religious minorities face discrimination, abuse and forced conversion in the classroom, blocking their right to education, it claimed.

Gurinder Singh, a 17-year-old Sikh from Pakistan said: ‘I was beaten with sticks approximately twice a week throughout nursery and prep. After that the manner of the abuse changed. As well as physical punishment, I was mentally abused and tortured by consistently being told to convert.’

Faith and a Future, a study by the religious freedom charity Christian Solidarity Worldwide, said: ‘Education can either create a culture of tolerance or fuel stereotyping, animosity and extremism. It can provide opportunities for social mobility, or entrench disadvantage.’

The report criticised the United Nations’ sustainable development goals for their ‘lack of focus’ on religious freedom and failure ‘to reveal discrimination on the basis of religion or belief in the area of education’.

‘Biased education, including intolerance from teachers and discrimination in school textbooks, creates a toxic mix, leaving students from minority religious communities isolated and reviled,’ the report warned citing case studies from Myanmar, Iran, Mexico, Nigeria and Pakistan.

Quoting Katarina Tomasevski, the former UN Special Rapporteur on the right to education, it added: ‘Retrospective studies of genocide and inter-ethnic or inter-religious warfare have often identified school textbooks as a factor leading to warfare or genocide. Failure to address such issues can thus be deadly.’

In one examples from Pakistan, the report said textbooks used widely in schools describe Hindus as ‘evil, misguided and heretical’.

‘Textbooks include ideas that incite violence and hatred towards religious minorities,’ the report added.

In another example from Iran it quotes a letter from the Ministry of Science, Research and Technology to the management of 81 Iranian universities in 2006 that said: ‘If Baha’i individuals, at the me of enrolment at university or in the course of their studies, are iden ed as Baha’is, they must be expelled from university.’

It urged UN member states such as Pakistan and Iran to intervene and ensure textbooks do not contain discriminatory content.

‘Curriculum reform must be an urgent priority in countries where religious bigotry is fostered through bias in textbooks and stereotypes, and teachers should receive training to enable them to understand and promote respect for other religious traditions,’ the report said./Christian today